Gama blames contractors for alleged corruption in Transnet deals

13 May 2021 - 08:11 By ALEX PATRICK and alex patrick
Former Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama at the Zondo commission in March. He was back to testify on Wednesday afternoon.
Former Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama at the Zondo commission in March. He was back to testify on Wednesday afternoon.
Image: Alon Skuy

Former Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama said it was not the state entity but its contractors who had been doing deals with alleged Gupta letterbox companies.

Gama was back on the stand on Wednesday to give testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture. 

The essence of evidence leader SC Anton Myburgh's questioning was how Gama could claim he did not know about any corruption or money laundering in the enterprise when it was carried out on such a grand scale — and for so long. 

Most of the session revolved around whether the acquisition of 1,064 locomotives included or excluded forex and other price escalations when the costing increased from an initial R38.6bn to R54bn. 

It was Gama's view that though he first said the cost of R38.6bn included the estimated escalations, this did not contradict the final memo to the board which said it excluded estimated escalations. 

He said it was semantics and that the memo he signed said it included some of the estimated forex and price escalations but that they were greatly underestimated.

Either way — Gama did not recall signing the first memo.

“The R38.6bn did include some forex assumptions — as I understood. It should have said excluded borrowing costs — which are always excluded.

“It's raining files today,” Gama commented as he was referred to the minutes of the meeting on April 25 2013, where the board approved the amount excluding forex and price escalations. 

Myburgh wanted to know how the cost could have escalated by 41%, and how nobody had noticed that the deal to broker the cost of relocating a locomotive-manufacturing venue from Gauteng to Durban had earned the Gupta intermediary, Business Expansion Structured Products (BEX), a cool R67m.

Gama said Werksmans Attorneys were hired to look into the matter but that he had not seen the final report and could therefore neither deny nor confirm that BEX collected R67m — “but it was raised with me”.

He said he did not know anything about BEX.

“What these money flow investigations reveal — that the money flowed into different letterbox companies — it's shocking,” Gama said.

In conclusion Myburgh asked a series of questions. This is how it played out at the commission.

Myburgh: “This commission is different from court. Our client is the general public and the chair will assess the evidence and determine if you may or may not have known [about the corruption and money laundering].

“Your evidence is that you were completely unaware of corruption and money laundering happening at Transnet?”

Gama: “Yes.”  

Myburgh: “The chair will have to consider: how could you be unaware when it was done on such a grand scale and spanned many years, went through different stages and involved many organisations?”

Gama: “I did not have an inkling — we sit here with the benefit of hindsight — one was not involved, one was just busy doing the work.”

Myburgh: “At every turn, every contract was tainted with corruption and money laundering.”

Gama: “That's what the money-flow teams found out — my own sense is that the processes were followed properly inside the entity, but that our contractors had commission agreements with third parties. It is something we couldn't police — I didn't know anything.”

Myburgh: “Another thing [chair Raymond Zondo must] consider carefully is that Salim Essa ... has been dubbed as a Gupta money laundering lieutenant [who is] behind almost all contracts — [this poses] a potential challenge. Essa is well known to you and other senior members, he's not an unidentified person. You've been taken by him to the Guptas, met with him Dubai, and on and on ...”

Gama: “Not on and on! I met him three to four times. I don't know what he does, I didn't have any relationship [with him], I do not know what it is [he does] and I'm not familiar with board money, money flows and the laundering aspects of him. [It's] not what we discussed. 

"... When certain things happened that impeded the integrity of Transnet we terminated those contracts — again and again.

“I don't think those are the actions of something in any way or form in cahoots with Essa.”

Myburgh: “Another consideration: in order to pull off grand-scale laundering you would need some inside help?”

Gama: “And that wasn't me.”

Myburgh: “If there was internal assistance then there would be some sort of quid pro quo ...”

Gama: “Wasn't me.”

Myburgh: “That brings us to the evidence of your driver [of bags of cash allegedly given to Gama by the Guptas]." 

Gama: “I have indicated to you that sometimes he uses real events that take place and sometimes he puts flavour into those events, and he alleges things that happen that did not happen. And I've also shown there are other motives.”

Myburgh: “Your predecessor [Brian] Molefe was also implicated with [former Transnet executives Anoj] Singh and [former CFO Garry] Pita who were also implicated by evidence of drivers in relation to the same thing.”

Gama: “I can only talk about me.”

Myburgh: “Finally I put it to you, your peers ... going up a level to the evidence of [estranged wife of former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, Norma Mngoma] in relation to Gigaba and the Guptas ... that Gigaba was well and truly captured by the Guptas and was told 'If you don't do as we say, we'll send you back to Home Affairs [where he was minister]. His portfolio included transport ...

Gama: “You'd have to put that to Gigaba.”

Earlier in the day, the commission heard testimony related to the State Security Agency from inspector-general of intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe.

On Thursday, the commission will hear evidence by former minister of mineral resources Mosebenzi Zwane on Eskom.  

Gama will be back at the commission on May 28.